Advocating for drug decriminalization: locally, provincially, and federally

Following the publication of Act Now!, we shared the report with various levels of government and have continued to pressure all relevant government actors to take action on decriminalization. In May 2020, Pivot, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, and the HIV Legal Network issued a call to the federal government to use its exemption power for the purposes of decriminalizing simple drug possession. More than 170 civil society organizations endorsed the letter. Soon after, Pivot launched an email petition urging Vancouver’s Mayor and Council to apply for a local exemption. More than 1400 people participated in the action, calling on the City to take more meaningful action than simply calling on other levels of government to do the right thing.

Fortunately, our advocacy appears to have paid off. In November, the City of Vancouver passed a motion to apply for an exemption from the federal government to protect all people in Vancouver from the enforcement of the offence of simple drug possession under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If approved by the federal government, Vancouver would eliminate all criminal consequences for possessing drugs for personal use—precisely what Pivot and the community have been fighting for. We look forward to progress on this front and will of course continue to keep pressure on governments, the health authority, and the police.